Thursday, January 24, 2013

New Flavors for New Diet

I successfully completed the 21 Day Sugar Detox! Hurray!! While I'm feeling better, I'm still having some health issues. I ended up getting a second opinion from a naturopath, as my faith in conventional medicine is fading. She believes that I have a problem with my thyroid. Exactly what? No idea... All I know is that I still have a leaky gut and an enlarged thyroid.

One of the ways to treat this medical conundrum as naturally as possible is to adopt the Paleo Auto-Immune Protocol. This means: no grains, no dairy, no legumes, no eggs (which makes me extremely sad!), no nuts, none of the nightshades (IE- eggplant, all peppers, paprika, chili powder and tomatoes), very little fruits and no coffee. Yup... coffee's the other bad one. Yes, it's restrictive... but it's only for 30 days. After that, I can try to add some things back in and hope that they don't affect me.

Anyways, this new dietary commitment makes dinner choices a little more difficult. I am determined use this as an opportunity to create some auto-immune friendly culinary masterpieces! Take, for instance, this goodie:

AIP Smokey Roasted Chicken Legs

  • 4 chicken leg quarters
  • 1/3 cup good extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1/2 tbsp salt 
  • 1/2 tbsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp oregano
  • Combine all of the ingredients in a gallon sized, sealable plastic bag. Seal and massage everything until the chicken legs are completely covered. Refrigerate and let marinade for at least a  few hours or overnight. (Overnight is the best option. Also, I guesstimated on the amounts of seasonings/olive oil/vinegar I used. Use your judgement and adjust to suit your tastes. You basically want the chicken covered in juicy goodness.)
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Cover a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  • Place the juiced up chicken legs on the baking sheet and pour on the excess marinade. Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until a thermometer registers 165 when inserted into the center of a chicken thigh. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes.
  • Enjoy with your favorite side!
This recipe turned out fantastic! I think letting the chicken soak overnight is really the key here. You end up with a nicely smoky, slightly herby flavor that absolutely rocks! I may be on a restricted diet, but I am not restricting flavor.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Chicken Soup for the Soul

I'm in the final days left in my sugar detox and I'm doing great! I feel as though I've been making some major strides with my overall health.  For instance, I've been taking melatonin before I go to bed for the past few months because I have trouble falling asleep. Yet, a few nights ago I was able to sleep sans melatonin! I fell asleep and only woke up once. Oh the heavenly choir is singing!

Another plus to cutting sugar, is that I cook from scratch more often. (I know I've said this before, but it's the truth.) I've started to set culinary goals for myself to conquer in 2013. One of those is to make chicken soup completely from scratch. Make the broth, cook the chicken, let it all simmer and get happy. The whole nine yards. Well... I can now scratch that off the list!

Homemade Chicken Soup (in the Pressure Cooker)

  • fat of choice (I used lard)
  • 8-9 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch collard greens, stems removed and roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 3-4 large carrots, chopped
  • 4-5 cups homemade stock (I used this recipe, but using both chicken and beef bones)
  • 1 tbsp 5 spice powder
  • 2 tsp dried parsley
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tbsp sodium free chicken seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, optional
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • Heat fat of choice in the pressure cooker over medium high heat.
  • Add the chicken in two batches, and cook until browned on both sides. Set aside.
  • Add any extra cooking fat, if need be, toss in the onion and carrots. Saute until softened.
  • Add the minced garlic and saute for another minute.
  • Add the collard greens and cabbage. Cook until the collards have wilted.
  • Add the seasonings, browned chicken and stock (I'm not exactly sure how much I used, hence the 4-5 cups. You can use your judgement and preference. If you want it a little more liquid-y, add more stock.) 
  • Place the lid on the pressure cooker. Turn the heat to high and let the pot come to high pressure. Once reached, turn the heat down to the lowest temperature to maintain high pressure and let the soup cook for 10 minutes. 
  • Remove the pot from heat. Use the quick release method to release the steam.
  • Open the lid and take out the chicken and remove the thigh bones. Shred/cut up the chicken and then add it back to the soup.
  • Taste, adjust the seasonings to your taste and enjoy!
I know I whipped this sucker up in the pressure cooker, but it could also be done in a slow cooker. Brown the chicken thighs first, then add everything to the crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours. 

This soup tastes wonderful! The five spice powder adds just a little something extra. You could totally sub in other spices to change the flavor profile and to suit your personal culinary flair. Plus, with this winter being the worst flu season for some time, this is the perfect soup to make!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Here's to Success!

Yesterday, I had an epiphany: It's been one year since I've had a soda. How fantastic is that?! I used to be so addicted to the stuff that I had to have some every day. Heaven forbid I didn't get my sugar fix. At my worst, I'd drink two 16 oz bottles a day and then I'd wonder why my stomach always hurt. My joints hurt and I slept terribly. Not anymore!

Because of this illustrious event, I decided to treat myself to a little 21 day sugar detox approved goodie. I've been thinking of whipping something up for a while now and haven't had a good enough reason to make it...

Coconut Butter

(Not the prettiest pic I've ever taken, but this stuff is awesome!)

  • ~2 cups unsweetened coconut chips (I'm guessing on this as I just threw a whole bunch into the food processor)
  • 2 tbsp melted coconut oil
  • pinch of salt
  • splash of vanilla
  • Pour everything into a food processor or blender. Puree until the coconut breaks down and becomes smooth and essentially becomes butter-like (10-20 minutes, mine took ~12 minutes). You'll need to stop the food processor/blender a few times to scrape down the sides and prevent the mix from overheating too much. 
  • Pour your butter into a container and store at room temperature. (The butter will harden)
The flavor of this coconut butter is soo intense! It's fantastic! Sweet, rich and fatty... It's the ultimate indulgence! (Justin thinks this be great slathered on a piece of dark chocolate or on some sort of baked item. I believe he may be onto something...)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Kombucha Update

So it's been a while since I've talked about this lovely little home-brewed kombucha of mine... Let me just say that it turned out to be a SUCCESS! Plus, I can totally have 8 oz a day whilst on the sugar detox.

(Post first fermentation. Gross looking and a little funky smelling, but worth it in the end!)

All in all, it took me about 8 days for the first part of the fermentation. I then strained the liquid, bottled it and let it do a second ferment for 5 days. (This helped to cut down on the sharp vinegar flavor.) I know I was going to add a some apple slices or something for flavoring, but I found that this stuff tasted oh so good on it's own! 

The above picture is the beautiful finished product. Let the komucha brewing keep on going!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Best Breakfast Ever!

I'm on day seven of my detox and things are still going well. (I guess I thought that it would be harder to kick sugar to the curb. The only tricky part of this new diet is attempting to dine out.) Between the whole gluten/dairy/sugar free restraints, my options are somewhat limited. Like, when Justin and I went  to a Thai restaurant with his family this past weekend. I ended up having to stick with a more basic coconut curry, order steamed veggies on the side and not eat the rice. While the food tasted pretty good, I kept thinking that I could totally make it better... It was then that I realized that I've become spoiled by my own cooking. Being forced to create meals to satisfy a dietary restriction has somehow transformed me into a person with some pretty decent culinary chops.

Whilst figuring out those "culinary chops," I've also come to the realization that one of my favorite meals is breakfast... and that consists mostly of eggs.  Omelets! Frittatas! Over easy! The options for the morning egg are endless. Well... I think I found THE best egg dish for me:

Bacon & Egg Cups

  • fat of choice (coconut oil/lard/butter work well)
  • eggs
  • bacon strips
  • sal/pepper, to taste
  • seasonings (I used a Cajun spice blend)
  • cilantro
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • Rub some of the melted fat of choice onto the bottom and sides small ramekin.
  • Wrap a slice of bacon around the inside edge of the ramekin to form a loop.
  • Carefully crack an egg into the center of the bacon-lined ramekin.
  • Top with salt/pepper, seasonings and cilantro.
  • Repeat the above steps with as many eggs/bacon strips as you desire.
  • Place the ramekins on a rimmed baking dish and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the white is set and the eggs have reached your desired doneness.
  • Use a knife or a spoon to gently lift the bacon/egg cup out of the ramekin and enjoy!
  • You can also store this in the fridge and save for later. Just pop it in the microwave or oven to reheat. 
I found this recipe from the website Katie Did. I've seen some of Katie's posts on other sites and recently started perusing her personal blog for more inspiration. When I saw these little beauties, I just knew that I had to try them. I love bacon and eggs more than I could possibly say! I would eat them every day of the week if I could. The only problem comes when I have to run out of the house to go to work and don't allow for enough time to cook (I like to sleep 'til the last minute). This recipe solves that problem!

Taste-wise? These are A-MAZING! I can't wait to take my little bacon and egg cups to work tomorrow and make everyone jealous!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Roasty Toasty

Today is day 3 of my 21 Day Sugar Detox and so far, so good. No major cravings and no headaches (granted I should also be giving up caffeine). I think this may end up being easier than I thought it was going to!

Today was also one of those, "I have too much going on and no time to cook," days. Luckily, I planned ahead and bought everything I needed to make a delicious slow cooked roast.

Slow Cooker Italian Roast


  • fat of choice (ie, lard/coconut oil)
  • 2 1/2 - 3 lb chuck roast
  • 3 medium-large parsnips, cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 pkg sliced mushrooms
  • 1 bag frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 jar 15 oz tomato sauce (I used Wegman's Grandpa's Sauce)
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2-1 tsp red chili flakes
  • splash of balsamic vinegar
  • Combine the salt, black pepper, oregano, basil, garlic powder, and chili flakes. 
  • Rub the spice mix all over the roast. (If you have time, melt fat of choice in a large skillet over medium high heat. Brown the roast on all sides.)
  • Add all of the chopped veggies, except the spinach, to the bottom of a slow cooker.
  • Place the roast on top of the veggies.
  • Pour on the tomato sauce, taking care not to knock too much of the spices off.
  • Cook on low for 8-10 hours.
  • Remove the roast and let it rest for a few minutes. Use two forks to shred the meat (or cut up). 
  • Add the meat back to the slow cooker, along with the spinach and cook until everything is warm.
  • Taste, adjust seasonings (if necessary) and serve with a splash of balsamic vinegar.
To keep in line with the detox, try to use a sauce that doesn't contain any sugar. It's also a good idea to use a grass fed roast (if you can... and trust me, it's worth the extra $$). 

This roast is tender, fatty and ohhh so good! The turnips bring a little sweetness and the the balsamic adds some brightness. It's the perfect thing for a cold and snowy day! 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year, New Resolutions

Today marks the beginning of the year 2013! It's hard to think that another year has gone by...  Looking back on 2012, I feel like I accomplished so much. I ran two half marathons (plus several other small races and my first ever trail race!), started writing this blog, got a new job, learned how to deal roulette and soo much more!  I am so thankful for my friends and family being there with me through everything. This year is going to have to top that one...

To start off, I've decided that this is the year to run my first full marathon. Yup, that's right... 26.2 miles. It'll be difficult, but well worth the effort.

Secondly, I'm kicking off this new year with a little change to my diet. I decided to join the largest ever group completing the 21 Day Sugar Detox hosted by Diane Sanfilippo. I used to have the biggest sweet tooth ever, but have slowly been trying to cut back. I was doing really well too; however, I went a little overboard this past holiday season with eating some ice cream on the weekends, eggnog and paleo friendly baked goods. I desperately need revamp the sugar situation! Especially since I just found out that I have PCOS (Aka - Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Essentially, my lady hormones are all out 'a whack). I've discovered that one of the ways to keep this in check is to regulate my insulin levels... Hence an even bigger reason for me to kick my sweet cravings to the curb.

To go along with this new dietary change, I am determined to conquer one of my new favorite beverages (one I can keep in the detox program): Kombucha!

For anyone who's never heard of Kombucha, it's basically a fermented tea. A little sweet, with a slight taste of vinegar. It's not for the faint of heart, but it's totally addicting! I used to buy this stuff all the time from Wegman's... The only downside is that it's fairly expensive (we're talkin' $3.69 a bottle!) I decided that in order to keep on drinking it, I was going to have to make it myself.

(Tea with mother SCOBY.  A little gross looking, but it'll turn into something great!)

  • mother SCOBY with 1 cup starter liquid
  • 6 bags of tea (I used Darjeeling)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 qts cold filtered water
  • 1 large clean glass jar
  • clean cloth
  • rubber band (or string)
  • Boil 1 qt water in a pot. Pour the water into your fermenting jar and add the bags of tea. Let steep for 5-7 minutes.
  • Remove the teabags and pour in the sugar. Give a quick stir.
  • Pour in the remaining 2 qts cold water, being sure to leave 2-3 inches of space at the top of your vessel (the SCOBY will expand as it ferments). If your tea feels like it's at room temperature, you can proceed to the next step. If not, wait until it cools completely.
  • Pour in the starter liquid and gently place the mother SCOBY into the jar. Cover it with a clean cloth and secure with a rubber band (or string, in my case).
  • Set your jar in a warm, dry place to ferment for the next 7-10 days.
  • Check your kombucha after 7 days... IE, taste it. If it still tastes a little sweet, let it sit for another couple of days.
  • Once the desired tartness is reached, remove the SCOBY and a cup of the new brewed tea and place it in a clean glass container (this can be used to brew more kombucha!). Feel free to strain the liquid and pour it into glass bottles for flavoring/consumption!
I've just started on my kombucha journey, but I know it's going to be great! I think I'm going to save one bottle of plain tea and flavor the rest with some 21 Day Sugar Detox approved green apple slices. I will give an update in a few days time with my awesomely addicting beverage!